How Social Networks Reshape Business by Reshaping Us

What are the the forces and dynamics that drive social networks?


I wanted to share with you this video of a speech by Nicolas Christakis from the Harvard Dept. of Sociology, on the shaping powers of social networks. He does a wonderful job of explaining statistically the forces and dynamics that drive social networks. In this case he uses the case of obesity to demonstrate how our behavior affects others, whether it be family member, friends or strangers.

He also examines the currency of those exchanges–emotions. Why do we visibly emote rather than let our emotions remain internal states of being? How do we read others emotions and why do we copy them? What are the dynamics of emotional contagion?

Christakis uses the example of Facebook to study how your taste in movies, books or products affects your friends opinions distinguishing between the different types of online friends. In doing so, he helps us understand how business can work in tandem with such dynamics enabling a company to be relevant, sharable and social online. Plus what’s required to sustain a networks once it’s built.

Many of us–myself included–assume there’s a basic human trait that drives social networks; we simply like to be in communication with each other. But by examining these drivers and how they work, Christakis helps us understand how they work so we can use them to do some good. In fact he concludes the very reason we build and sustain networks is for the benefits of a connected life. In short, the flow of goodness.

Do you agree with his analysis of drivers? Is there any others you would add to his list?


Reprinted from

Simon Mainwaring is a branding consultant, advertising creative director, blogger, and speaker. A former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, and worldwide creative director for Motorola at Ogilvy, he now consults for brands and creative companies that are re-inventing their industries and enabling positive change. Follow him at or on Twitter @SimonMainwaring.

About the author

Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, the leading social branding firm that provides consulting and training to help companies use social media to build their brand reputation, profits and social impact. Simon is a member of the Sustainable Brands Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School, the Transformational Leadership Council and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London.